Thirty-seven percent of Nepali girls get married before reaching the age of 18, and 10 percent before 15, according to a report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which urges the government to take steps against the illegal practice of child marriage.
According to the report, 'Child Marriage Threatens Girls' Futures', poverty, lack of access to education, social pressures, dowry practices and cultural taboos are some of the main reasons for the high incidence of child marriage in the Himalayan country.
"In a country like Nepal, with such a high rate of child marriage, it becomes a serious factor holding the country back from achieving its potential," the report's lead researcher Heather Barr told EFE.
The NGO produced the report based on research carried out in 14 of the 75 districts of the country, including the capital Kathmandu. Interviews were conducted with 149 people, including 104 married children and young adults who married as children.
The report says most of these marriages are arranged by family members, and often against the wishes of the girls.
Although 20 years old has been the threshold for legally marrying in Nepal since 1963, and there are provisions for imprisonment and fines against those organizing unions of underage individuals, HRW says the government has done little to enforce the law.
Police rarely act to prevent these marriages except when a complaint is filed, and state officials register such unions despite them being illegal.
"The Nepal government had made several promises for the reform at the national and international level; however, the situation has not changed even in the town," said Barr.
The study points out that Nepal plans to end the practice by 2030, but indicates that the process of developing a national plan has been very slow and lacks involvement of all stakeholders.
HRW calls on Nepal to strengthen marriage and birth registration systems, keep children in schools and away from work, and increase access to contraceptives for adolescents. EFE